Category Archives: princess
The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler is a book I recommend to any lover of fairytales. It is a retelling of the classic story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. This has been one of my favorite fairytales for some years, although I’m also aware it’s not necessarily one of the best known ones. But if you’re like me, you love discovering those little gems that are not so mainstream – not so faddish – and all the more charming for it.
Zahler tells the story in first person, from the viewpoint of the heretofore unknown thirteenth princess – the youngest sister of the famous twelve princesses. Her father the king, bitter after the successive birth of twelve girls, banishes Zita, his thirteenth child, who is not the son he was hoping for. She is sent to live among the servants of the castle, not aware she is even the daughter of the king, sister to the beautiful princesses, until she is 12, which is when the story begins.
Zita has personality, she has depth, she has fears and longings – everything a heroine should have, in fact. Eventually, she finds she possesses bravery as well, which comes in handy as she follows her sisters into a deep and strong enchantment cast over them by a mysterious magic. She, her friend Breckin, his handsome older brother Milek (who just happens to have an eye for the oldest princess), and the friendly witch Babette, all embark together on a quest to disenchant the princesses, whose nightly forays into the world of magic are wearing them thin and even threatening their lives.
Zahler keeps all the old enchantment of the classic tale in her retelling while adding her own voice to the story, with a couple of thrilling twists – one heartbreaking, the other joyous. She reaches deeper into her main characters’ personalities than many middle grade and young adult books I have read of late, and on that basis alone I would recommend this book.
Head to the library and check it out – then let me know what you think! I dare you to dislike this one!
First of all, just let me say … I loved this book. That’s really all I need to say, although I’m betting you are going to want a few more details before you’re willing to take my word for it.
I’ll start by giving you what I call the “jacket flap” description. If you happen to have already read the actual jacket flap or back of the book, then just skip the next three paragraphs.
Rosalind is a princess, but she has a terrible, un-princess-like secret. (I’m struggling here to know whether I should let you in on the secret or not. As you’ll find out anyway by looking at the book cover art or even just by reading the first few paragraphs of the book, I guess I’ll tell you. If you’d rather not know, just skip to the next paragraph!). Rosalind was born beautiful in all but one respect – she has a dragon’s claw as her left ring finger, and has been forced by her mother to hide it, wearing gloves, all her life.
Rosalind also happens to be a part of a famous prophecy made by Merlin 600 years before her birth – a prophecy that promises to restore the throne to her banished royal family. Dragons plague her home, Wilde Island, and though she feels a fear and loathing of the beasts and their hunger for human flesh, Rosalind can’t deny that she also sees their beauty, and feels a strange link to them.
When a dragon comes and carries Rosalind off to its keep, she believes she is as good as dead. And though many hardships lie in wait for her and the ones she loves, she comes to view what she has always thought of as a curse in a different light – and it just may change the fate of her whole kingdom.
Ok, then – now that THAT part is over … why do I like this book so much? Isn’t it just another dragon book, just like the plethora of other dragon books on the market right now? Yes, sort of. But then again, not really. To me, anyway, there seemed to be two main differences that caught my attention and drew me in. Number one: The writing and character development. (Is that two reasons in one?? Maybe. Who cares.) The plot of this book flowed so wonderfully, and the writing style of the author was so originally her own, that – when coupled with the excitement of the story itself – I couldn’t seem to put the book down. I have a pretty late bedtime … and believe me, I stayed up with this book way past it.
So, yeah, the plot – awesome. The writing style – beautiful. The character development – completely believable. I have a peeve in young adult books, and it’s superficial characters. I’m always amazed at the books that make top seller lists. People can throw in a couple of quirky characteristics and suddenly their hero or heroine is supposed to have depth. Doesn’t work for me. Dragon’s Keep, however, had a main character (and indeed, all of its central characters) who had a wealth of traits, fears and qualities that made her unique and realistic. There was background – there was history – there were reasons she was the person she was.
Number two: The dragons. They are mean, and bitter, and hard-headed, and man-eating, and deadly, and tragic, and deep, and feeling, and passionate. Need I say more? I could. In short, they are what dragons are supposed to be. Not that I have anything against friendly, emotional, human-helping dragons. But I’ve seen too many of them. I loved that these dragons were different – that they were hard-core (does anyone use that phrase anymore? Well, I do).
Some books are exhausting to read. They feel like homework. And I’m one of those people who feel the need to finish something I’ve begun, even if it’s torture. It’s rare I stop a book that I’ve started. So you’ll believe me when I say I was hoping for a really good read – something that I wouldn’t have to work at, and that would grab me and draw me in whether I wanted it or not. That is exactly what Dragon’s Keep did.